Modest Pension Increases Projected for WRS Retirees

The State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB) announced yesterday that preliminary returns for the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) should result in modest increases for retirees.

The Core Fund, the state’s largest trust fund at $88.7 billion, slightly surpassed its benchmark with a one-year return of 5.7 percent. The five-year return is projected to be 9.3 percent. The riskier Variable Fund, with holdings of $7.3 billion, lagged just behind its benchmark with a one-year return of 7.3 percent.

Last year both funds posted strong gains, resulting in the first increase for annuitants in five years.

PROFS carefully monitors legislation relating to WRS and lobbies for the best possible pensions for faculty.

In 2011, the legislature requested a study to examine allowing WRS participants to choose a defined contribution plan or opt out of WRS altogether. PROFS hosted a campus forum featuring experts on WRS, including the former legal counsel to SWIB and the former secretary of the Department of Employee Trust Funds. The resulting 2012 legislative report recommended no changes to WRS.

The state’s retirement system is very highly regarded — Morningstar recognized WRS as the strongest state pension in country, and the Pew Center on the States found WRS to be fully-funded and called it a “solid performer.”

Governor Walker to Deliver State of the State January 13, Budget Address February 3

winter capitolGovernor Scott Walker will deliver his State of the State address at 7 pm Tuesday evening in the Assembly Chambers of the Capitol. The speech is usually an outline for the governor’s legislative and budget priorities for the coming year, but Walker might also hint at a possible run for president. Livestream coverage of the address will be available on public radio and television.

Walker will present his 2015-17 budget proposal to the Legislature on Tuesday, February 3. The state is facing a $2.2 billion shortfall if agency requests are fully funded. UW System has requested $95.2 million for the several items:

  • $30 million for a competitive grant program targeting six areas critical to the state’s economy: agriculture, finance, insurance/real estate, healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, and water research.
  • $27.3 to cover a pay plan funding gap. Historically, UW System funds about 30 percent of a pay plan increase with tuition dollars. The two-year tuition freeze has led to a funding gap, with many campuses holding insufficient reserves to cover the pay plan.
  • $24.4 million to increase the number of college graduates statewide, with much of the funding directed to the Course Options program, a program that allows high school students to earn college credits. Additional funding would expand the Flex Option degree program, improve the credit transfer system, and assist working and first-generation college students.
  • $22.5 million in one-time funding to assist with the creation of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs. The money will be available to individual campuses through a competitive grant process.

PROFS has already met with the state’s budget director to advocate for the budget request and is working with other university stakeholders to secure the best possible outcome for UW-Madison.

2015 Legislature

The Wheeler Report has compiled extensive lists of the 2015 Wisconsin Legislature. Members of the Assembly and Senate with contact information and committee assignments are listed below. Check back soon for the 2015 PROFS Legislative Directory, a list that includes links to legislative leadership and the Dane County delegation.

Assembly p. 1

Assembly p. 2

Assembly p. 3

Assembly p. 4

Assembly p. 5

Assembly p. 6

Senate p. 1

Senate p. 2

Senate p. 3





Governor Scott Walker Inauguration Speech

Governor Scott Walker

Governor Scott Walker

Governor Scott Walker will deliver his inaugural address at 11 am today, Monday, January 5. Livestream coverage is available here.

Brief excerpts of the speech were released earlier today. In them, Walker emphasizes the role of the states over the federal government:

“We’ve been good stewards of the taxpayers’ money and lowered their tax burden as well. We’ve shown why the founders of this great nation looked to the states — and not the federal government — as the source of hope for this exceptional country. We will not let them down. Now, we have a grand vision for the future — a dream of freedom and prosperity for all who live here in the great state of Wisconsin.”

ETA: full remarks here.

UW System President Ray Cross Interview

Steve Walters of WisconsinEye recently interviewed University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross to discuss the future of the University of Wisconsin System. Video of the interview is below.

Topics of discussion included a look to future budgeting and funding constraints, the possible creation of new engineering programs at three UW System campuses, and the relationship between UW System and the Wisconsin Technical College System.

Walters and Cross spoke at length about Cross’ recent remarks to the Board of Regents and the subsequent plans for a transformational study of the UW System. Cross estimates this study will occur over the next several months, and faculty will be engaged in the process. Cross also said UW System must do a better job at communicating what faculty do, in and outside the classroom.

When asked if UW-Madison will be included with the proposed reforms, Cross said UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee have a research focus and the final recommendations may not fully apply to those two campuses.


Robin Vos on Teaching Load and Tenure

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) recently spoke with the Racine Journal Times editorial board, where he shared his views on a range of issues including right to work, school accountability and employment for prisoners.

Vos also discussed his views on UW System and its faculty, saying he was concerned about the amount of time faculty spend outside the classroom:

“If they’re bringing in research, I totally understand that; they’re helping to grow the economy or even grow the public good. But if they are just being allowed course releases to have a sabbatical or to do something that’s not productive, we don’t have the money to do that.”

On tenure:

“Do I believe in tenure? I don’t. It’s an anachronism; it was something that was back from the ‘50s and ‘60s. I don’t think anyone should be given a job for life, which is what tenure is.”

PROFS President Grant Petty notes that tenure is not a job for life, and in fact tenure was developed in the early 20th century to offer faculty due process and protect their academic freedom:

“Tenure is the foundation of great research and teaching institutions. It does not offer one a job for life, but instead allows faculty to pursue scholarly endeavors without fear of ideological or political attack.”